Why all the travel chaos?

We all know by now that the travel industry is in a bit of a muddle! You’ve seen the reports of delayed and cancelled flights, long queues, delays and frustration. But why is there a problem and when is it likely to be resolved?

In a nutshell, it’s a case of supply and demand…

The travel industry was slammed by Covid, with millions of people being retrenched or furloughed around the world over the last couple of years. Many agencies and companies closed down completely, and those that survived were forced to drastically reduce staff.

In addition, the demand for travel has increased exponentially. People are sick and tired of being cooped up at home and want to go on holiday, or businesses which have been confined to virtual meetings now wish to meet face-to-face with international colleagues. Although an increase was predicted by economists, nobody thought it would be this big or this rapid.

But, now that things are back up and running, can’t everyone just be hired back? Alas, it is not that simple. Here’s why:

  1. Staff shortages. Vast numbers of travel industry employees have retrained and moved on to other jobs in other industries (they had to, in order to keep food on the table) and do not wish to or aren’t able to return to travel.

  2. Uncertainty. Things are changing rapidly and there is still some uncertainty, so many smaller companies are hesitant to rehire when we can’t yet be sure this won’t happen again – they don’t want to rehire only to have to retrench again. On the flip side, people are not sure if they want to enter the travel industry, for the same reasons. This uncertainty is fading but will still take a little time to go completely.

  3. Skills and security. Jobs in the travel industry require a specific set of skills. People with years of experience left and this knowledge cannot simply be replaced in a matter of days. In addition, in many sectors, such as flight crew, security staff, baggage handlers, etc., a high level of security vetting is required as well as a great deal of training. It takes time to find people, do background checks, and train them up.

  4. War in Ukraine has forced many airline carriers to divert their routes as they are not permitted to fly over the area. This has added to flight duration and the amount of fuel used (while fuel has increased in price too).

  5. Various other issues, including maintenance to aircraft that sat idle for 2 years, alternative modes of transport like trains and buses not having capacity to take the strain, strikes by transport workers, and even a summer heatwave in Europe leading to cancellations have all added to the chaos.

So, when is it likely to improve? The bad news is that it’s not likely to stabilise in the near future, with a European summer of travel disruptions predicted. The good news is that it will eventually improve – experts suggest that things should be better (albeit not perfect) by the European winter. Predictions currently put a complete return to normal by 2024 but it’s likely that things will already greatly improve by next year.

This shouldn’t put you off travelling – and many people still are! – but, if you’re planning to jet off, you may want to consider ensuring that you’re prepared for possible delays.

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